Back in the day, I was that typical high school student who feared any project, assignment, or discussion that even mentioned the words “math” or “science.” It seems these subjects just have a way of instilling worry, fear, and incompetence in younger students. However, it’s the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) academic skills our country needs to continuously develop in order to keep up with today’s world. Luckily, the Voinovich School recognizes this and has been focusing its efforts on many STEM related projects through its evaluation services, partnerships, initiatives and more.
Currently the Voinovich School is working on several STEM projects in the Appalachian region. The Ohio Mathematics and Science Partnership Evaluation (OMSP) and the Science Professional Development (PD) Seed Grant Evaluation are both projects that evaluate professional and/or student achievement in math and science areas. Senior Research Associate Margaret Hutzel and Assistant Professor Marsha Lewis are implementing these services through the Rio Connection: Jackson Focus on Mathematics and Science Teaching project, which aims at enhancing student’s physical science content knowledge from third to eighth grade.
The Ohio Mathematics and Science Partnership and Improving Teach Quality Evaluation has evaluated STEM progress in other local schools such as Wellston City Schools, Gallipolis City School, and Vinton County Local Schools. One program in particular, The Boat of Knowledge in the Science Classroom (BooKS) project, supports STEM academics on a local level by placing nine graduate fellows from the engineering department into nine surrounding high schools in hopes of enriching scientific knowledge of classroom teachers while interesting students in STEM education. Research associate Dana Larsen explains, “The students enjoy having the fellows in the classroom and are asking for information on STEM related college majors and careers.”
Efforts toward STEM education extend farther than just evaluation services. For example, The Voinovich School made it possible for a class from Piketon High School to help develop the ASER student summary, which assessed the condition of the Portsmouth (PORTS) Gaseous Diffusion Plant and grounds. By immersing students in the field, the Voinovich School is helping change students’ preconceptions about math and science.
Looking back at my personal experiences, it’s easy to wonder whether or not my career path would be different had I had the same STEM education opportunities throughout middle school and high school.
The Voinovich School’s evaluation findings show increasing interest in math and science subjects among the students involved in each project. By serving local and regional audiences, the Voinovich School’s research and evaluation services are also successfully contributing to STEM academics on a national scale and in the eyes of students. It is hopeful to see this beneficial reform in the education system. Through its efforts with the STEM academic push, the Voinovich School is improving the future of not only the Appalachian region, but our country as a whole.